30 (Forgiveness)

February 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

I wrote this on my blog last year for my birthday, and it’s all still so true:

“…for now, this is what I want to say, and it’s important, so pay attention: I’ve got the best friends in the entire world. I have sought and found the truth in faith, hope, and love. I’ve seen the sun rise over exotic shores and strange lands; I have realized my home is where my heart is. I’ve cried tears of joy at weddings and sobbed my guts out at a funeral.

I have learned that you can desire something with your heart and soul and the very weight of your bones and still lose it, and when you do, the loss of it will not kill you.

I’ve felt that peculiar ache that comes from yearning: I’ve felt it when I was outside in bitter cold winter air and heard the wild cries of Canadian geese flying far away above me, felt it when I rocked babies to sleep and wouldn’t put them down even though my arms were shaking, felt it in the living silence of Eucharistic Adoration as I knelt in the dim light before my God.

I’ve dreamed too small, drank too much, written midnight poetry, called my mom crying over boys, held my girlfriends as they cried, made dinner for the homeless, talked desperate people off terrible ledges, given money to gas-station strangers and car rides to meth addicts. I’ve looked for the beauty in commonplace scenes and discovered it in human souls. I’ve got hockey, hipster glasses, and a future in books and beautiful words.”

If I were to add anything further to this after another year, it would be about forgiveness, and the constancy of God’s mercy.  I have expended so much effort searching for the ability to forgive, never realizing it has been inside of me all along.  I have pursued it like a deer longing for water, thinking if I could only forgive, I could let go and live again.

But now I see more clearly than ever the paradox of love: we must die to truly live.

Forgiveness has often seemed to me to be a pearl just beyond my reach, a golden feeling I could not create within me.  But I needed to “put away childish things” – this search for a feeling, this elusive, darting emotion.  Forgiveness is already- always- within love, held by it, and strengthened with it.  If my love is a true sacrifice of self, then forgiveness follows from it in a way utterly natural.  To paraphrase Caryll Houselander: if you have hurt me, you have hurt Christ, who is within you.  I see the wound in Christ, in you, and I reach out to comfort that wound, because He is in me also, and wounded.  Therefore forgiving becomes not about me and my feelings, but about healing the wounds our sins have left on- in- the body of Christ.  This is letting go, or rather dying to my own self, my own need.  This is love, poured out like liquid gold refined in the fire of God’s grace.

Not I, but Christ who lives in me.

This is sometimes harder to apply to our own selves, whom we need to forgive just as often as we forgive others.  Every sin I commit wounds Christ within me, and my sincere contrition for them gives me the opportunity to say to Him, “Let me comfort you.”  I sometimes think of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, looking in agony at our sins and what He must suffer to expiate them.  How He must have longed to hear those words of comfort from us as He prayed.  My despair and anger wound the eternally loving heart of God, and after I realize this, I turn to Him inside me and repent.  But forgiveness of self is still necessary after the repentance, or else I run the risk of denying God’s utter goodness and mercy.  He forgives and we are cleansed, and our sin is made white as snow.  This must be acknowledged by me.  I cannot cling to my sorrow, wearing it like sackcloth and ashes.  We fall, we repent, we rise.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation is especially necessary at times when I cannot forgive myself.  We call it “Confession”, a little nickname, but should not forget that a Reconciliation between ourselves and Christ occurs as well.  We are not merely depositing our sins in a darkened room; we speak- we run, we press ourselves- to the Heart of Christ through His servant the priest, and He in turn absolves us, washes us, revives us.  He heals the death of Himself in us.  The tomb- the darkened room- is empty.  He was dead but has risen.

We live the Resurrection of Christ within us every time we forgive.

If I could choose one thing to do better as I enter my thirties, it would be to spread the knowledge of the constancy of God’s mercy.  Pick your head up, my friend. Let your heart be glad.  The mercies of the Lord are renewed each morning, so great is His faithfulness.  You do not need to search for Him; He is already waiting for you.  Open wide the door; roll away the stone.  Forgive yourself.  We are all darkened tombs until we allow -for He will never force Himself- the life of Christ to shine through us.  We were dead but now we live.

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